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Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium pesto

After a cool and wet spring, the nasturtiums always come. Fields of nasturtiums—all over my garden, popping up through the mulch, under the stairs, between the cracks, volunteering everywhere.

Read next: Nasturtium Leaves: The Most Waterproof Surface Ever?

Nasturtiums in a garden

Most people don’t give nasturtiums a second look. They’re sometimes regarded as weeds, as they reseed easily and will grow absolutely anywhere with the least amount of maintenance. They’re often seen as ornamental annuals, blooming through early summer before the heat turns them into a scraggly mess of vines.

Related: Best Edible Ground Covers for Vegetable Gardens

But historically, nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are considered vegetables, hailing from South America and originally cultivated in Peru.

The leaves and flowers contain high amounts of mustard oils, which give them a pungent, peppery flavor and are released when the plant is crushed or chewed. (These are the same oils found in mustard seeds, horseradish root, and wasabi.)

Basket filled with nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers

Mustard oils have active antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, making nasturtiums a natural remedy for everything from skin infections to sinus colds. The leaves are also rich in vitamin C and iron, and anthocyanins in the red and orange flowers make them highly antioxidant.

Read more: Anthocyanin Powerhouse: Pusa Asita Carrots

Just make a simple (yet beautiful) salad with the leaves and flowers to gain the many health benefits of this very underrated plant!

But when I end up with a bumper crop of nasturtiums, my favorite use for them is making pesto. The mustard oils in the plant add a boldness to this recipe that isn’t found in traditional pesto, and it’s such a treat to have homegrown, homemade pesto when it isn’t basil season yet!

So how do you use nasturtium pesto? Almost anywhere you’d normally use basil pesto: spread on a pizza or sandwich, tossed with hot pasta or zucchini noodles (zoodles), smeared onto a piece of toast, or stirred into vegetable soup for a burst of flavor. You can add a dollop of nasturtium pesto onto a steaming baked potato, or thin it out with more olive oil and drizzle it over eggs or roasted vegetables.

Nasturtium pesto may overpower more delicate flavors, so use it sparingly unless you love a little kick!

Overhead shot of jar of nasturtium pesto with a wooden spoon next to it

Nasturtium Pesto

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

4 cups packed nasturtium leaves
2 cups packed nasturtium flowers
1 1/2 cups olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 to 1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Pick a basket full of fresh, healthy leaves and flowers without any blemishes. If your plants aren’t blooming yet, using only the leaves is fine too.

Basket of freshly picked nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers

Nasturtiums are highly beneficial in the garden for being natural aphid traps, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not harvesting a colony of aphids along with them!

Thoroughly wash and dry the leaves and flowers; tear larger leaves in half.

Nasturtium flowers in a colander, being rinsed in a sink
Nasturtium leaves in a colander, freshly washed

Add the leaves, flowers, garlic, olive oil, walnuts, and Parmesan to a blender or food processor. I like my pesto extra nutty and extra cheesy, so I use the full 1 1/2 cups for each ingredient.

Nasturtium leaves, flowers, walnuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in a blender

Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.

Ladle the pesto into small jars, refrigerate, and enjoy! The pesto should keep for up to two weeks.

Close-up of jar of nasturtium pesto
Yield: 2 cups

Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium pesto

Nasturtiums are often seen as an ornamental flower in the garden, and sometimes even as a weed with how prolific it is, but it's actually a highly nutritious leafy green that can be turned into pesto!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups packed nasturtium leaves
  • 2 cups packed nasturtium flowers
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Pick a basket full of fresh, healthy leaves and flowers without any blemishes. If your plants aren’t blooming yet, using only the leaves is fine too.
  2. Thoroughly wash and dry the leaves and flowers; tear larger leaves in half.
  3. Add the leaves, flowers, garlic, olive oil, walnuts, and Parmesan to a blender or food processor. I like my pesto extra nutty and extra cheesy, so I use the full 1 1/2 cups for each ingredient.
  4. Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Ladle the pesto into small jars, refrigerate, and enjoy! It should keep for up to two weeks.

Notes

Nasturtiums are highly beneficial in the garden for being natural aphid traps, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not harvesting a colony of aphids along with them!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

32

Serving Size:

1 tablespoon

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 138Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 64mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on January 15, 2013.

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

34 Comments

  • mtn lady
    August 11, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    So hoping Linda or someone will reply to my question about pickling the pods with the chewy tough covering on the bigger pods! Remove it or not? I note other comments are months and even years ago! Also that I posted on the WRONG recipe, though both are related to nasturtiums recipes! I don’t have time to check this posting constantly, but would love an answer before I attempt the pickling, Nothing worse than putting a lot time & ingredients in something to learn you goofed it up!

    Reply
  • mtn lady
    August 10, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I am so happy to have easily found both of your nasturtium recipes as I have a hanging pot of yellow and orange ones and searched for a way to preserve the fresh pods. I knew they were called ‘Poor Man’s Capers’. After eating several of the very small seed pods, I realized they are actually a tiny bit sweet before the zing hits your nose! I love them! I have noticed though, as they get bigger even though still light green, the outer covering gets tough & chewy and can be peeled off. Has anyone else noticed this? And is it an issue? Perhaps the brining helps and the vinegar? Now that I’ve found your recipes, I need to get picking!
    mtn lady in VT

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      August 15, 2017 at 7:07 am

      Hi, the outer covering is not an issue when making poor man’s capers. Just follow that recipe as-is, I think you’ll enjoy it!

      Reply
  • LaLa Ortiz
    April 17, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve always tossed these flowers and leaves into my salads. I love the sweet peppery flavor. I had no idea that they’s make a good pesto.

    Reply
  • Kaitlin Barnett
    March 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    How amazing! I can’t eat dairy and don’t like cheese much, can the parmesan be replaced with something or just ommitted?

    Reply
    • Linda from Garden Betty
      March 22, 2017 at 6:57 am

      You can omit the cheese entirely. In essence, you’d be making a nasturtium pistou (which is just nasturtium leaves/flowers, garlic, and olive oil pounded together). The nuts are optional as well but add a nice texture in my opinion.

      Reply
  • Walktallpilates
    May 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I made this last year, it was wonderful, and an amazing colour!
    Looks like we’ll be having huge nasturtiums again this summer so I,ll be doing it again. Thankyou! 🙂

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      May 29, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      Enjoy! 🙂

      Reply
  • Karina
    January 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    ohhhhh, what a great idea. I love my nasturtium to keep my apple trees happy (and sometimes the chickens) but had no idea what to do with it other than eating it in salad…. brilliant!!!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      January 24, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      This is one of my favorite pestos. I love the peppery flavor compared to a typical (sweeter) basil pesto. Enjoy!

      Reply
    • Walktallpilates
      May 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      It is such a good idea isnt it? 🙂

      Reply
  • Isis Loran
    February 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I had NO idea you could eat the leaves. I’ve eaten the peppery flowers before, what another exciting way to eat them this year!

    Reply
  • walktallpilates
    November 5, 2013 at 7:05 am

    tried this and it was fantastic, thankyou!

    Reply
  • Nancy G
    September 27, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Love this one. I also blend basil and nasturtiums and make batches for the freezer – with or without garlic and cheese. And using all varieties of nuts and seeds. It makes for a great savory breakfast muffin. Nancy

    Reply
  • Rachel
    September 12, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Hi Garden Betty,
    I am a school teacher from beautiful New Zealand and I just wanted to share with you that my children at school have now successfully made – and gobbled up – large quantities of nasturtium pesto from your recipie! Nastutium grow like a weed here too and we have grown them in our school vegetable garden as companion plants.I’m looking forward to pickling the pods at some stage and since we’re growing carrots we’ll be blending a carrot salsa at some stage too! Thanks for your inspiration! Rachel

    Reply
  • Catherine Higgins
    July 31, 2013 at 6:35 am

    excellent. I’ll be making this very soon.

    Reply
  • missy winkworth
    July 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

    i just made a batch of this because my nasturtiums are overthrowing my tomatoes! after i scraped almost all of the pesto out of the blender, i threw in some of last nights leftover chicken. i am currently enjoying a chicken-pesto-lettuce-wrap… and it is delicious! thank you garden betty!

    Reply
  • Lydia Ann
    May 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    This sounds great! I am growing tons of Nasturtiums in among my curcurbits (cucumbers, melon, squash, etc.) because I’ve read that they will deter cucumber beetles, so I should have lots flowers and leaves to use! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  • Linda Ly
    January 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks Nancy! My nasturtiums grow wild year-round, except for fall, so I’m always harvesting a different part of the plant each season depending on when they’re blooming or seeding. 🙂

    Reply
  • Nancy
    January 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I just discovered your recipe for pesto. How cool is that?? I have nasturtiums that grow wild spring to summer and always felt I wasted them! Now, I have poor mans’ capers and pesto to look forward to! Great blog…love it.
    I live in Costa Mesa, so it is fun to see someone else in CA.
    Nancy
    http://wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Jeff Wright
    January 16, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Would never have thought of doing this, thank you!

    Reply
    • Linda Ly
      January 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Enjoy!

      Reply

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